Arco researchers completed the fourth case study about Italian Social Enterprises within the European Project Efeseiis (Enabling the Flourishing and Evolution of Social Entrepreneurship for Innovative and Inclusive Societies). Fabrizio Ajò, member of the board of directors of Life Beyond Tourism Ltd. and Carlotta Del Bianco, Vice President of Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation were interviewed to discover the mission behind the company and foundation’s work. Life Beyond Tourism, Romualdo Del Bianco’s operational arm, is a start up for the betterment of the peaceful coexistence and dialogue among people, through the promotion of local cultures, territories and artistic heritage. One of its fulfilment is, a non-profit hotel reservation site for Florence and surrounding destinations. Besides booking one’s own accommodation, the tourist has the possibility of funding a project of restoration or promotion of Florence’s artistic and cultural patrimony through the cost of his/her reservation.

VivaFirenze: supporting culture through tourism.

VivaFirenze was born starting from a reflection about our everyday reality. Despite IT revolution, basis of the globalizing process we are experiencing, led to a drastic facilitation of all kinds of transactions, it made their understanding much more complex and their depiction confused. In present days the most common way to reserve a room or a travel, in one’s own country too, is through an online website, usually run by some multinational corporation. The former phone call to the hotel’s owner has been replaced by a click which virtually asks to a foreign office employee for calling on our behalf. In 2014, economically speaking, this meant that 10% of Florence’s hotel revenues leaked to foreign economics to pay these online services. stands for a business which aims at maintaining that percentage of commissions within the national borders to sustain the local economy. Equally, it directly supports the local artistic and cultural heritage, channelling its clients’ reservation costs to projects for the improvement of Florence and surroundings’ patrimony. The traveller is actively involved in the virtuous cycle started: on the one hand the tourist himself/herself chooses the project to fund and on the other hand his/her contribution links the culture, driving force of Italian tourism, to the touristic facilities which make a living from this sector. The combination of hotel reservation and fundraising in an integrated service, puts these two complement worlds near again and fosters their parallel development.

Nowadays the company is sustaining four projects, selected through a competition in 2014, and it provides instant hotel reservation in about three-hundreds facilities. The business’s potential growth is sizeable, even if the sector competitiveness is high and the current legal and commercial system does not endorse enterprises with a social objective. Quoting one of Fabrizio’s examples,

Foundations or NGOs benefit some special financial conditions for the purchase of advertisement spaces or billboards. That does not applied to online advertisement spaces, which are very expensive due to high barriers to entry. It is fundamental a bigger effort in order to make the tourism more and more informed and sustainable, both in cultural and environmental terms.